Plot: Sophia (Catherine Walker) is a grieving mother desperate for a chance at closure, one last opportunity to speak with her child. Of course, death doesn’t allow for that one final encounter, at least not in the usual sense. But her drive is so intense, she has rented a remote manor and hired an occultist named Joseph (Steve Oram), who promises he can deliver on her wish. The path to that point will not be a simple one, however and she will have to do just as he demands, no matter how stressful, painful, or exhausting the rituals become. After intense preparations and cleansing processes, a circle of salt seals off the house and until the ritual is completed, Sophia and Joseph are now bound inside or risk severe consequences if the seal is broken too soon. A serial of rituals soon follows and the two find themselves pushed to the brink and with little to no indication of progress, it begins to take a toll. Are these rituals just ancient hokum designed to fleece fools, or have the pair unlocked far more than they ever expected?
Entertainment Value: A lot of horror movies make use of rituals, incantations, and such, but it is often a short segment within a larger narrative, just a means to an end. But in A Dark Song, the ritual process is the narrative and as the path is walked by our leads, we are guided alongside them, step by step. The attention to detail here is remarkable and it is clear a lot of research was undertaken, as the elements here are rooted in authentic rituals. This makes things seem dark and ominous, whereas rituals in films are often hokey and laughable. That genuine tension and dread is crucial here, as A Dark Song takes a slow burn, incremental journey to the finale, one that never feels dull in the least despite the deliberate pace. Without that attention to detail, the pace would have been a concern, but here the process feels so authentic, even slower scenes possess effective mood and atmosphere. The movie is driven by the two leads, who turn in excellent performances and never falter in their roles. The finale veers into more traditional realms of the genre, but up to that point, A Dark Song carves out a fairly unique niche as a believable occult chiller. In this end, I found this to be an effective and stylish horror film that earns a high recommendation.
A topless scene unfolds during an odd sex magic ritual, then later we have some supernatural breasts and dongs about. So not much nakedness, but a little to spice up the cringe “sex” scene at least. The blood isn’t heavy by any means, but it does pop up when the scene calls for some crimson. An accidental stab wound is likely the most graphic moment and involves a slow blade removal, while other scenes have various blood presence. The finale has some non-gore related effects, which shift the movie into another gear of horror. This is more about mood, tension, and atmosphere though, so lack of blood is never an issue. The dialogue is serious in tone and involves a lot of ritualistic lingo, most of which comes across as authentic and believable. So while most films of this kind slant toward mumjo jumbo, the elements are a totally different situation in this case. In other words, the writing is on point and effective, but since we score for over the top, wild, and quotable lines, the score will be low. Don’t let that fool you though, this one is very well written. In terms of craziness, the sense of dread really ramps up and imbues such an unsettling tone, not to mention the finale and some of Joseph’s more colorful moments. But the movie takes a serious, mostly grounded tone, so just a few points.
Overall Insanity: 3/10